To answer this question you have to determine what a slave is? And what Racism is? By my views and believes, slavery is any type of duty somebody does for you. You own them so they work for you otherwise they will get punished. Now Racism is a negative attitude towards another race. After these to words are cleared up you come to a conclusion that racism in the 17th century caused enslavement of African Americans. To believe this you have to look at the history left for us to read. The court papers, and journals of people back in the 17th century.
The first blacks arrived at Jamestown in 1619, they were from Africa and there were 20 of them, (C. Degler pg 64) there were probably Africans in the Virginia colony before that famous ship in 1619. What the Africans are seeing is a wilderness, forested plains, teeming waters, empty land. They have come to a place that is undeveloped in the way that Europeans envision that development. So what do the English men do, they put to work the Africans immediately. The Africans were sent to cut the trees to pick up the stones.
To move the boundaries to level land, put crops in, fish, hunt, to do all the necessary labors that settlement and society demand. This was the slave’s life, and if they did not cooperate than they were punish. Now reading different history facts I found that these 20 African Americans were from indentured servitude (servants contracted to work for a set amount of time) ( C Degler pg 67) to racial slavery did not happen overnight. There are no laws regarding slavery early in US history.
By 1640, the Jamestown courts had sentenced at least one black servant to slavery. Because of his race ethnicity he was punished harder than the whites. This is called racism. John Punch was one the three servants working for a farmer and ran away to Maryland. Two were white; one was black. They were captured in Maryland and returned to Jamestown, where the court sentenced all three to thirty lashes. This was considered a severe punishment even by the standards of 17th century. The two white men were sentenced to an additional four years of servitude.
The strong punishment for whites, but in addition to the whipping, the black man John Punch was ordered to serve his master or his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere. (C Degler pg 65) Because he was a different color John Punch no longer had hope for freedom. Why, because he was African and was braking the law of the land at the time. The grounds for this harsh sentence presumably lay in the fact that he was non-Christian rather than in the fact that he was physically dark. But religious beliefs could change, while skin color could not.
Within a generation race, religion was not being made the defining characteristic of enslaved Africans. Because the defining characteristics of Africans it lead to the terrible transformation to racial slavery. What were needed in Jamestown were laborers. Or what we call slaves to clear fields, to plant and harvest crops. During the 1620s and 1630s, when the price of tobacco was high and English workers had too few jobs available at home, Jamestown offered jobs to the few English workers that came over. Then after 1660 the value of tobacco dropped and the Great Plague reduced England’s population.
In addition, a terrible fire in London destroyed much of the city and created new jobs at home for English construction workers of all sorts. No longer able to lure their own countrymen, Jamestown looked toward African labor, following the pattern established by the Spanish and Portuguese more than a century before. African labor was cheap and Africans were being captured from their homeland and were sent to work at towns like Jamestown. Because the Africans were not Christians, Africans could be forced to work for the rest of their lives and be punished with impunity.
Moreover, the color of their skin (race) set them apart, making it easy to identify runaways. (C Degler Pg 72) Also, there was a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Africans, and since little information flowed back across the Atlantic, mistreatment and abuse in America did not alter the flow of enslaved persons from Africa. So the slavery movement went on. It was not until 1661 that a reference to slavery entered into Jamestown law, (C Degler pg 72) a transformation had begun, but it would not be until the Slave Codes of 1705 that the status of African Americans would be sealed as slaves.
Slowly the number of blacks grew in Jamestown. In 1625 there were only 23. In 1650 there were about three hundred. By 1700, more than a thousand Africans were being brought into the colony every year. These numbers would increase dramatically in the years to come. As slavery became more popular the more the Africans there were. This status of slavery was only brought to be, because of the racism the English men brought upon the Africans.